Lyman and Mike

I spent a day with Lyman Colemen recently and talked about small groups ministry over the last 60-some years. Lyman founded Serendipity House and for more than 30 years, he spoke at church conferences across America. At that time, he was the voice of the American small group movement.

Mike and Lyman Coleman, August 2013
Lyman Coleman leading a Small Groups Conference in Columbus, Ohio, February, 1992

Lyman commented that the term “small groups” means nothing anymore. The term was hijacked by a number of church movements, especially the church growth movement, that had other objectives in mind than how the term was originally used by Lyman and some of the other early pioneers in the small group movement of the 50s-70s.

“In the early days,” Lyman says, “the small group movement was primarily an underground movement. The established church didn’t want anything to do with it.” Later, churches began to recognize small groups as “the best way of reaching out beyond the doors of the church to the broken people in our society.” Coleman has always wanted small groups to be places for caring and deep relationships, where people can belong and feel wanted, and he believes that healthy groups can have the effect of helping to close the back door of a church, but he bristles at small groups being purely an assimilation strategy. His feelings are deep and very personal. “Every time in my life,” he said in 1992, “at times of my deepest needs, my needs were not on the church’s agenda.” His sentiment should continue to convict us as leaders today.
In an article I wrote about him 20 years ago, I shared the line Coleman used to close out his seminars: “The church is full of beautiful people. We must not forget the people beyond the doors of the church.”

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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2 Comments

  1. Devin

    January 13, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Let’s connect. Lyman turns 85 in April. We’re orchestrating a celebration in Kentucky. LOVE to chat. Devin.

    Reply

    • Michael Mack

      January 15, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Sounds great! Please contact me through my contact form on the site.

      Reply

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